After three straight losses in the national title game, Annapolis native Acacia Walker-Weinstein became intimately familiar with heartache. The Boston College women’s lacrosse coach said the experiences hardened her, tempering her exuberance about returning to Sunday’s NCAA Division I national championship game.
With a 16-10 victory over third-seeded Syracuse before an announced sellout crowd of 5,405 at Towson’s Johnny Unitas Stadium, Walker-Weinstein and the fourth-seeded Eagles finally were able to exhale, claiming their first championship in their fourth straight trip to the finals.
“Those losses really taught us a lot,” said Walker-Weinstein, an Annapolis High graduate and former All-American at Maryland. “We were destroyed by [them] temporarily. But we picked up the pieces and we had to pivot here and there and make different decisions and persist and stay together and find new ways to win.”
After a first half that included six ties Sunday, Boston College (18-3) took command by scoring eight of 10 goals over a span of 20:29, building a six-goal lead midway through the second half.
Senior attacker Charlotte North scored a game-high six goals for the Eagles, including a low-lining free position from the left side with 16:39 to play for her 101st goal of the season, breaking an NCAA Division I single-season record. North, who was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, said her team’s previous three meetings with the Orange this season paid dividends Sunday.
“I think our coaches did such a good job breaking down our film each time we played them and learning what we could do better on the offensive end, putting in new sets and new looks and making sure to give us key points to focus on,” North said. “My attackers make my job easy. They’re moving in there, they’re having the ball zip around and they’re aggressive. So, I mean, it’s a credit to them.
“We did a great job against one of the best defenses in the country.”
It also was a special day for Boston College attacker Caitlynn Mossman, who took the field with former high school teammate Sarah Cooper, a Syracuse defender. The juniors were teammates at Notre Dame Prep, and were both key players on the Blazers’ 2018 team that ended McDonogh’s national-record 198-game winning streak in the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference final.
Mossman finished with a goal and four assists, while Cooper scooped a pair of ground balls and caused two turnovers.
“It’s so awesome to be here in my hometown,” Mossman, who’s from Towson, said of the win.
Boston College, which ended No. 1 seed North Carolina’s 27-game winning streak in the semifinals, came out firing Sunday, building a 3-1 lead in the first 6:24, capped by North’s extra-man goal in which she faked, then fired just inside the 8-meter arc.
All told, Syracuse (17-4) gave up four goals in man-down situations.
“I think our offense kind of sputtered when we went down a player,” Orange coach Gary Gait said. “And that really made the difference. It was tough to rebound from the depth. We just came up a little bit short on the [offensive] end. And then we unfortunately got a little bit in the situation where we’re pressing it and trying to score, and unfortunately that meant taking some bad decisions on their feeding and shooting.”
Syracuse, however, quickly turned the tide with Emma Tyrrell’s goal after a stop at the other end, kicking off a three-goal run that put the Orange up 4-3.
But that momentum didn’t last long. Syracuse suffered a major blow midway through the half when Tyrrell, who entered the day fourth on the team in scoring, picked up a yellow card for a dangerous play, her second in less than two minutes, disqualifying her from the game.
Trailing 6-5, Boston College regained control in the final minutes of the first half, scoring four of five goals and building a 9-7 lead on Mossman’s solo effort 1:31 before the break.
“They were just feeding from everywhere,” Syracuse goalie Asa Goldstock said. “We tried to change our defense to match up better, match up differently and give them a different look. And we were getting some stops. But we really could never piece it together as a team.”
Senior Sam Swart and freshman Emma Ward each scored a pair of goals to lead the Orange, who managed just two goals in the second half.
Boston College won three of its four meetings with Syracuse this season, including a 19-17 win in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament.
After three straight championship losses, Walker-Weinstein said she took a little bit of inspiration from Boston College men’s ice hockey coach Jerry York, the winningest active coach in the NCAA.
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“He just said to trust the process,” Walker-Weinstein recalled of their 2019 conversation. “And at some point, at the right time, divine timing will come in, and things will fall into place.”